Thursday, December 27, 2007

Fun In the Snow

A picture from last January.

More Robinson Crusoe Than Stuffy Analytics

One of my favorite books of the Bible is Numbers. Numbers? Yes!

It is often forgotten. It is often avoided. Just the title of the books scares people away. It also happens to be located in that area of the Bible most people tend to skip over when they are doing their daily Bible reading. But, Numbers is full of great stories and important lessons . . . lessons that still teach us today!

Indeed, the preacher of Hebrews had the stories of Numbers in mind when he warned, "There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience" (Heb. 4.9-11). The "example of disobedience" the preacher is citing is that of the first generation of Israelites freed from Egyptian slavery, the very people whose story is told in the opening chapters of the bbok of Numbers.

It is a rather sad and tragic story. God, in his great mercy, had freed this people from oppression in Egypt. He had brought them into a wilderness on a journey to a land "flowing with milk and honey," to a land of great promise and blessing. Yet, the people rebelled against God, they doubted him and amazingly looked past all of the great things he had done and was doing to deliver them and keep them safe. They turned their backs on God and desired other gods. They rejected his way of things and the order he demanded in life and gave themselves to carnal pleasures and pursuits. And, so, God condemned them to die in the wilderness. And die they did, every single member of that generation, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, men who remained faithful to God.

The first 25 chapters of the book of Numbers tells the tragic story of this first generation of Israelites who came out of Egypt. The following 11 chapters tell the story of the second generation, the children of the former slaves. A distinctive feature of Numbers is the two censuses that preface the two sections of the book. In chapters 1 and 2, God commands Moses to count the people, specifically the men of each tribe. In chapter 26, Moses is commanded to count again, but this time he is counting a new generation; the older generation had died as a result of their rebellion and faithlessness. The book of Numbers needs to be read with an understanding of this structure.

The book of Numbers is really a manual on how to survive the wilderness journey (and, on the flip side, on how to fail on the wilderness journey). The wilderness journey is a motif to describe the life of faith in a faithless world. God was leading the Israelites through a difficult and threatening place to prepare them for the life of blessing ahead. In the opening chapters of Number, God tries to prepare his people for the arduous journey, but the course of the narrative shows that they did not take serious the preparation and the resources given to them by God, and they failed. The second generation, on the other hand, is shown as taking God seriously and, ultimately, they succeed where their parents had failed.

The Apostle Peter describes Christians as "strangers in the world," as "sojourners in a foreign place." God's people, men and women of faith, Christians, find ourselves in a world that is different from ourselves. We are in the world, but not of it. This world is not our home, we are journeying another place . . . to a land of eternal rest (to use the metaphor of the Hebrew writer). We, like the Israelites before us, need to prepare for the arduous journey before us. The principles found in the preparation given by God to the Israelites in Numbers can help us. The lessons learned from the failure of the first generation of Numbers can help us to avoid the pitfalls that will surely stand in our way.

In the coming days and weeks, I will devote this blog to a study of the book of Numbers (with an occasional break for other ramblings). I hope that you will follow me in this study. If you are not that familiar with Numbers, and even a bit intimidated or put-off by it, I imagine that by the end of this study you will have changed your mind and come to love this great book.

Friday, December 21, 2007


Now that's balance!
Two of today's headlines caught my eye:

"J. Russell Coffey, age 109, one of last 3 known U.S. World War I vets, has passed away." What a great American!

And, another headline, just as it appeared, without any revision: "With her charming wink-'n-nod jokes, many Hillary Clinton fans say her sincerity doesn't matter." Run as fast as you can to support whoever the Republican nominee ends up being.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Praise God Who Helps the Weak

The prayer of Psalm 146:

My whole being, praise the Lord.
I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing praisies to my God as long as I live.

Do not put your trust in princes
or other people, who cannot save you.
When people die, they are buried.
Then all of their plans come to an end.
Happy are those who are helped by the God of Jacob.
Their hope is in the Lord their God.
He made heaven and earth,
the sea and everything in it.
He remains loyal forever.
He does what is fair for those who have been wronged.
He gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free.
The Lord gives sight to the blind.
The Lord lifts up people who are in trouble.
The Lord loves those who do right.
The Lord protects the foreigners.
He defends the orphans and widows,
but he blocks the way of the wicked.

The Lord will be King forever.
Jerusalem, your God is everlasting.

Praise the Lord!

Is It the Girlfriend?

I'm not the first to make the observation, but . . . ?

Yesterday. The Cowboys get beat by the Eagles. The worst game of the year (and career) for Tony Romo. Girlfriend Jessica Simpson cheers from Romo's box.

One year ago. The Cowboys get beat by the Eagles. The worst game of the season (and to that point, career) for Tony Romo. Girlfriend Carrie Underwood cheers from Romo's box.


Perhaps Romo should go to games stag from now through the second Sunday of February!

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Shiprock

A great picture of the Shiprock. I'm not sure who took it, but it is spectacular. And its in my back yard (so to speak . . . 85 miles to the north).

Where's Nolan When We Need Him?

I wasn't surprised. Disappointed, yes. Angry, a little. Surprised, unfortunately not.

I'm speaking of the Mitchell Report on steroids in Major League Baseball released yesterday. The long list of names did not surprise me . . . even Roger Clemens.

I've been a Clemens fan since he came up with the Red Sox in 1985. The '86 Red Sox club remains one of my all-tim favorites . . . even Bill Buckner! Like Barry Bonds, Clemens was a potential Hall of Famer before he began taking steroids. According to the Mitchell Report (and its voracity seems ironclad to me), Clemens began to "juice" during the 1998 season, while he was pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays. Bonds, according to the allegations made against him, started his steroids regimen following the 1998 season, that "majical" year when Mark McGwire and Sammy Soso were pursuing and ultimately passed Roger Maris for the single-season homerun record. Before 1998, both Clemens and Bonds had already posted numbers that guaranteed their induction into Cooperstown. Clemens had already been awarded 4 Cy Young Awards, as many as any pitcher in hisory (to that point), and Bonds was alread a 4-time Major Leagues M.V.P. Before, both Clemens and Bonds had been in the Major Leagues for over 12 seasons. But, when most players ould be stisfied with their careers and looking forward to retirement, Clemens and Bonds were searching for an edge, for something that would keep them competitive for years to come.

Was it for the money? It is a fact that Clemens and Bonds have earned millions more in the years since 1998 than they earned in the 12+ years before. Their motivation to juice could simply be a case of greed . . . wanting an ever increasing series of contracts.

Was it the need for acclaim? It is true that those we place on pedastals often get addicted to the praise and adolation we give them. We've all heard stories of the washed up atheete everyne has forgotten. Does anyone remember Danny White? At one time, he was the highest rated passer in the NFL. He led the Cowboys to three straight NFC Championship Games. Yet, today, when people hink of the Dallas Cowboys and the great quarterbacks that the franchise has had, the list usually includes Meridith, Staubach, Aikman, and, now, Romo. White is conspiciously absent. My point? Simply that our athletes, once they leave the playing stage, are often forgotten. Perhaps Clemens an Bonds could not bear the fact of being pushed off the stage, so they sought to prolong their caeers as long as possible.

Was it jealousy? In the book written a few years ago outlining Bonds' perported steriod use, the authors claim that Bonds began his usage following the 1998 season because he was angry and jealous over the acclaim given to McGwire and Sosa, both of whom he was convinced had used performance enhancing drugs. The book claims that Bond was angry that his hand work was being overshadowed by those who, in his mind, cheated. The authors claim that Bonds decided to sell himself out and show that he could outdo anyone. He had done so clean (before 1998), and now he would do so on a level playing field with McGwire and the others.

By speculating as I have, I am not trying to rationalize the behavior of Clemens and Bonds and others like them. They cheated. Major League Baseball should respond accordingly. If I were a Hall of Fame voter, I would refuse to induct anyone who is shown to have purposefully and systematically used performance-enhancing drugs. That hurts to say, because I was as much a fan of Mark McGwire as I have been Roger Clemens. I was never a fan of Barry Bonds, but I acknowledged him as the greatest ballplayer of my generation (and that was before 1998). But, cheating should carry with it consequences.

My larger point, however, is that society at larg has helped produced the circumsances that fueled these men in their excesses. Perhaps the publication of the Mitchell Report should cause all of us to pause and reflect on how we put too much emphasis on athletes and athletics. Instead of making the sports stars stand at the pinacle of our pedastals, why don't we place much of the acclaim we give it to our school teachers, public servants, those who keep the peace and security of the community, and the blue collar workers who have built this country and keep it running?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

My Favorite Athletes

I have several lists of "Favorites" on the righthand column of my blog. One of the categories is "Favorite Athletes." I am a sports nut. I was never a great athlete (in fact, I was rather subpar), but I love sports . . . as a spectator!

My favorite sports are football and baseball. I also like golf, tennis, and basketball. If playing is involved, add volleyball to the list.

From my list of favorite athletes, it should be obvious who my favorite teams are: the Dallas Cowboys (pro football) and the St. Louis Cardinals (pro baseball). Add the Oklahoma Sooners to the list if we are talking college football. And, don't forget the San Antonio Spurs (pro basketball). Of course, to throw a bone to my Colorado friends, I must add the Denver Broncos as a distant second NFL favorite, and, after this past season, the Colorado Rockies have supplanted the L. A. Dodgers as my second favorite baseball team.

Now back to my favorite athletes . . . .

I love athletes who are first and foremost gentlemen away from the game . . . good sportsmen, great husbands and fathers and members of the community. I root for those who have overcome great difficulties to become what they are today. Of course, it helps if they wear a star or a redbird on their uniform/jersey!

My favorites . . . .

#1- Roger Staubach . . . would any self-respecting Cowboy fan have any other at the top of his (or her) list? Simply the greatest . . . a legend! My only regret? I was only 10 years old when he retired from the NFL (I still remember his announcement . . . broadcast on the radio as I was in the car with my family reurning from a trip to Oklahoma). The only game I remember vividly with him playing at quarterback is the 1978 Super Bowl . . . vs. Denver . . . Dallas creamed them, 27-10!!! And, against an old Cowboy at that . . . Craig Morton.

#2- Jay Hanna "Dizzy" Dean . . . Hall of Fame pitcher for the "Gashouse Gang" St. Louis Cardinals of the 1930's. I was born in 1970, so how did "Dizzy" make the list? Strat-o-matic Baseball gets the credit (my junior high through high school years were spent playing Strat-0-matic!). My team? The 1934 Cardinals. Dizzy was 30-7 that year and won two games in the World Series against the Detroit Tigers (his brother "Daffy" won two more to hand the Cardinals the Championship).

#3- Bill Bates . . . simply the toughest Dallas Cowboy to ever wear the uniform. And, that says a lot for a franchise that boasts the likes of Randy White, Bob Lilly, "Too Tall" Jones, Darren Woodson, Roy Williams, and Charles Haley. I am wondering when Jerry Jones is going to get around to retiring #40 and installing Bates in the Ring of Honor.

#4- Nolan Ryan . . . I was already a big fan the night I saw Ryan interviewed following his record 7th no-hitter (his closest competitor has only 4!). Instead of celebrating with champaign or a night out on the town, Ryanwas interviewed while he was riding an exercise bicycle . . . his work was not done for the night. Hard work. Perseverance. Nolan Ryan knew the secret to success. (Another Ryan highlight: beating Robin Ventura senseless when the White Sox 1B charged the mound on him.)

#5- Jack Nicklaus . . . even with a Tiger on the prowl, the "Golden Bear" is still the definitive golfer of all time . . . and a class act off of the course.

#6- Pete Sampras . . . quiet, unassuming, "lights out" on the tennis court. Never the showman, always the professional.

#7- Joe "Ducky" "Muscles" Medwick . . . another "Gashouse Gang" alum. One the of the most forgotten greats of the game. He was the best all-around hitter in the National League during the 1930's. He is the last NL batter to win the Triple Crown (1937). His picture graces the top of this post.

#8- Michael Irvin . . . the reason I have written this post. Michael Irvin has not always been one of my favorites. There was a time I was embarrassed he was a Dallas Cowboy. But, Irvin is a changed men, and I am quite impressed with his transformation. He puts himself forward now as a man of God, committed to his faith and family, and from what I can tell, he is extremely sincere. Did you hear his induction speech given at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August? It was the most profound speech I had ever heard from an athlete. His words preach!!! (Another selling point? I met Michael Irvin, and shook his hand, when he was a rookie with the Cowboys . . . that man has big hands!)

#9- Satchel Paige . . . if it had not been for the blatant racism in baseball during the 1920's, 30's, and 40's, Satchel would have gone down as the single greatest pitcher in the history of the Major Leagues. His stuff was unbelievable. He comes as close to a pitcher being able to "call his pitches" and get anyone out at anytime.

#10- Albert Pujols . . . another Cardinal . . . perhaps, by the end of his career, the greatest hitter the Cardinals have ever had. And, that says a lot for a team that has boasted Stan Musial, Ducky Medwick, Johnny Mize, and the incomparable Rogers Hornsby.
Beyond my Top 10 . . . Tim Duncan, Tony Romo, Randy White, Tony Gwynn, Francis Oimet (thanks to the Shia LaBouf movie I recently saw), Chris Evert (had to have a female on the list), George Foreman, David Robinson . . . .
Of course, no list of athletes would be complete without mention of a coach. My favorite coaches list begins and ends with one name . . . no either need apply. His name? Tom Landry. Who else's name belongs there?

Those are my favorites. How about yours?


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

There Goes Another One!

I live and work approximately 200 feet from one of the busiest railines in the country. About every fifteen minutes throughout the day and night, a frieght train comes rumbling down that line (and often there are two trains crossing past each other). Living in a mobile home, a passing train will get your attention . . . especially at 3:00 a.m.!

I have always been fascinated with trains. My most special Christmas gift was an electric train set Santa (a.k.a., dad & mom) brought me when I was five years old. I don't remember it lasting long, however. I was too good at staging train crashes! And, I also had a tendency of leaving the current on and burning up the motor.

A thought struck me this morning . . . how many tons of stuff are these trains carrying past my house each day? One hundred trains (a conservative estimate) . . . most over a mile in length . . . how many box cars? . . . flatbed's holding cargo containers? . . . automobile transports? . . . tanker cars? . . . coal cars?

I once paused long enough to count the cars on a train hauling automobiles. The train carried 87 transport units (I don't know the official term). Each one of these units had eight brand new vehicles . . . high-end vehicles (Lexus, Mercedes, Land Rover, etc.). That's a total of 696 luxury automobiles! A conservative estimate on their cumulative value? $52 million! That's just one train! There were at least 99 others that passed by on that day. Wow!

A lesson? Not really. More of an observation on the consumer-driven, consumable society we live in. It amazes me how much stuff we, Americans, go through. We are certainly blessed. But, can we not say that we are also spoiled . . . spoiled by our own indulgence?

Don't get me wrong. I am all for the free market. I am glad that people are able to purchase a Lexus. Hard work brings great rewards. But, I'm still looking for the train that is carrying 87 boxcars full of Bibles :-).

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!

There are so many twists and turns on this journey we call life. Many we can see from afar, and we can prepare ourselves for that bend in the road, for the hill that looms ahead. Many, however, are hidden from our view and come upon us most unexpectedly--the sudden drop-off that takes away our breath, the hidden curve in the road that turns all so quickly, the pothole that is underneath our feet before we can adjust.

The obstacles are a part of the journey. We can make every effort to become more diligent, and many of these hazards before us can be spotted before they bring us a great challenge, but there will always be some difficulties for which we are unprepared.

Life is not always a bed of roses, there will always be thorns in the mix. You've heard the proverb, or a variation of it. I've had my share of thorns, and I know you have, too.

The pothole in the road ahead does not stop us from journeying on, does it? The thorn in the midst of the roses does not keep us from enjoying the sweet smell, does it?

My point? We keep on despite the difficulties that lie ahead and the hidden hazards that threaten. We keep on because we know that there is a way ahead, a passage past the hard times, a broad and level road beyond the twisting and turning and stead path we tread on today.

I am reminded of the Israelites. The Lord freed them from a life of captivity in Egypt, promising them a land "flowing with milk and honey." But, the land of Canaan was not adjacent to Egypt. A vast and threatening desert separated the two lands. Into this wilderness, God led his people. At every turn, there was an obstacle to overcome--lack of food and water, enemies, heat, self-doubt, pagan influences. Many succumed to the threats. Indeed most died in the desert without ever seeing the land to which God was bringing them.

We must keep going, going over and around and even through the hazards that stand before us. We can come to the end of our journey, no matter how twisting and turning our way, because we are not alone.

Jesus told his disciples, "In this world you will have trouble, but be brave! I have defeated the world" (John 16.33, NCV).

Monday, December 10, 2007

I Am Still Very Hungry, Lonely and Cold

One of my favorite pictures. Someone e-mailed it to me years ago.
The following is a great wake-up call. I am not certain of the author.
I was hungry and you formed a humanity club and discussed my hunger.

I was imprisoned and you crept off quietly to your chapel in the cellar and prayed for my release.

I was naked and in your mind you debated the morality of my appearance.

I was sick and you knelt and thanked God for your health.

I was homeless and you preached to me of the spiritual shelter of God's love.

I was lonely and you left me alone to go pray for me.

You seemed so Holy, so close to God, but I am still very hungry, lonely, and cold.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Movie Picks

I'm no Siskel or Ebert (although Ebert and I do resemble each other in the mid-section!), but I like movies . . . good movies. Here is a listing of some GREAT movies I have watched during the past few weeks. If you haven't seen them, head to Blockbuster . . . or do the NetFlix thing.

Amazing Grace. The story of William Wilberforce's crusade to end the slave trade in Britain in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Wilberforce was inspired, in part, by John Newton's hymn, "Aamazing Grace." Newton had been a slave trader who can to see the great evil of slavery and who spent the waning years of his life in penance. I was familiar with the basic story of Wilberforce and his crusade, but the movie brought the details to life.

The Bourne Ultimatum. The third (and final?) episode of the Bourne series. The greatest spy series ever filmed, and this third film is the best of the lot. It will be released on DVD on Tuesday, December 11.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. Produced originally for HBO, from the book of the same tittle. It is the story of the Sioux from their victory at Little Big Horn to the establishment of the Sioux Reservations in South Dakota. (I just purchased the book at Waldenbooks!)

I am wanting to see American Gangster and the National Treasure sequel.

Of course, I must get my annual Christmas Story fix, and I always watch The Lord of the Rings trilogy during the holidays.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Whiter Than Snow

Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool" (Isaiah 1.18).